There’s a street not far from Ben Yehudah Street in Jerusalem where several very trendy, upscale restaurants can be found. Among them sits Gabriel. We had heard several positive reviews from friends, and were eager to try out this place. When the opportunity arose*, we hesitated only slightly before setting out to our Holy City for good food and an evening of animated conversation.

The price on a menu sets my expectation, not the description. Gifted writers can make car tires sound delectable, but what a restaurant charges for food should be a reflection on both the quality and the preparation of the dish.

Buckle up. This is going to be harsh.

When we arrived we were told that there was no seating outside, even though there were three tables, including one large enough for our party, clearly empty. After a little pushing, we secured the table to enjoy the fresh air and warm weather. The waitress was absolutely everything she should have been: prompt, courteous, pleasant, helpful, sales-y, apologetic (when necessary). The chairs were quite comfortable deep leather. The menu was clear and well written. The wine list was impressive, boasting the 1984 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon at nearly ₪3000 for the bottle. We weren’t drinking wine anyway.

The table rolls were tasty, served with three dipping salads. The eggplant was okay, the carrots were drowned in bottled sweet chili sauce and the fennel was lemony. The last was an observation, not a criticism.

I ordered the calves’ brains for the appetizer. I’m a fan of organ meat. I truly enjoy the silky, supple texture it has, its slightly gamy flavor, and for some types, its ability to be almost absent of flavor in the presence of more strongly flavored items in the dish. It’s a weird juxtaposition that a happen to enjoy quite a bit. The appetizer was served on a tile, which I don’t find appetizing, not to mention the corner of it was sticking out past the end of the table so I couldn’t sit properly. The five thin slices, maybe 50g total, each sat on its own little dollop of smashed potatoes. Not smashed potatoes with garlic, not smashed potatoes with saffron, not smashed potatoes with anything. The tile was painted with tehina, but there were completely unidentifiable flavor pools on the tile, which did nothing for the dish. I found myself wondering if the chef had actually tasted anything he had put on my tile. To their credit, it was cooked well, even if it tasted like it was only boiled in water.

My wife couldn’t taste the sun-dried tomatoes in her ravioli. It was, however, smothered in pesto. The pasta was obviously handmade, but with no protein in them, the portion was small for the price.

The tomato soup portion was small, one diner complained. He counted five spoonfuls. I think it was more, but not much more.

They served a mint sorbet intermezzo, which was served in little metal cups. Which were too cold to handle after about a minute. Which is why they’re usually served in glass, which acts as an insulator.

I had the Moulard breast, which was my first encounter with it in real life (meaning, I knew about it from research and reading). It is a hybrid duck, and something I have never seen kosher. I guess I expected a more classical presentation, with the layer of fat cut in a criss-cross pattern, but that’s my fault. The meat was firmer than I expected it to be, but not as gamy as I expected, which may or may not have been the kitchen’s fault. It was served demi-cut, meaning they cut twelve half-slices through the breast. Better than a slab of meat on the plate, I guess. There was a wine and honey sauce, which was okay, but I didn’t understand its relation to the meat.

My wife and another diner had the entrcôte. My wife is the resident expert on the entrcôte cut, which is ribeye bone out. She said it needed salt, while the other diner’s food didn’t. That struck me as odd.

Two diners shared a Beef Wellington. It seems they got the best of the bunch, because they were delighted with their dinner. It had a nice portion of foie gras in it, which one diner raved about. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to taste it.

Every dish was served with the same dollop of smashed potatoes (maybe it had some sweet potato mixed in. It was hard to tell because it was dark and flavorless) an single stalk of asparagus and a biased-cut chef’s special carrot jammed into the potato. The Beef Wellington has to chives lying on the plate. I think it showed an abysmal lack of creativity on the chef’s part, and certainly not what they have displayed on the Internet.

We had dessert, some same-old (coconut/passionfruit/berry) sorbet and a couple of chocolate soufflés. Now, a soufflé is light and airy, right? These weren’t. They were however, dry on the outside.

Gabriel is checked off the list.

*We were treated to dinner by good friends. This article is in no way a reflection on them. It was I who chose the restaurant, and I who bears the guilt for choosing a place that deserves this write-up. I have said before I don’t criticize food I don’t pay for. We printed out the eluna coupon (which I will NOT link to) in good faith (we forgot to give it to them) to help defray the cost of the evening. The kavanah (intention) was important.



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